Melbourne, Australia, was voted the world’s most liveable city in 2015 for the fifth time! Making it a great place to spend your time on your Australia Working Holiday Visa.
But as a Brit living in Melbourne there’s certain things we can’t quite get our heads around! With the help of some British Characters and actors, here are 10 Things A Brit Living in Melbourne can relate to
Is there anywhere more beautiful than New Zealand?! Even the least experienced walkers can enjoy a good ramble in this stunning country. All you need is a plan, water and some decent walking boot or trainers. What I love most about New Zealand is how diverse its two little Islands are. You can be on one side with miles of stunning, sandy beaches then travel a bit further down the island and be traipsing past glaciers and climbing mountains or walking around huge lakes. It really is a beautiful country and the best way to experience it is to do what the hobbits did – go on foot!
After spending almost two weeks (not enough time) travelling in a car/tent in just NZ’s south island, I’ve come up with a list of my own favourite short, day walks we did. They range from a leisurely 30 minute stroll to a bit harder, but still fairly easy, 3 hours! Enjoy Hobbits!
All the walks’ locations can be seen on this amazing map by the very talented, illustrator Sarah Cochrane ,who was by my side on our NZ adventure!
1. Kaikoura Walkway, Kaikoura
Kaikoura’s stunning seaside town is the place to go in New Zealand if you want to see sea life such as whales and seals! The Kaikoura Walkway is an accessible trail that leads you from the car park out to Kaikoura’s coastline, past a seal colony, cliff top look out points, whaling sites and back to the town centre. The whole walkway takes around 3 hours, but you can do as much or as little of the walkway as you like.
The weather was grey and miserable when we were here and we had no chance of spotting a whale! So instead we paid a visit to the seals at Kean’s Point, located on the walkway. They seemed unphased by the human gawkers surrounding them and continued sleeping most of the time, but be careful where you put your toes – the seals blend into the rocks!
The name ‘Kaikoura’ in Maori actually means ‘man who eats crayfish’. Right along from the Kean’s point is a little wooden shack where they serve up some fresh crayfish! May as well, whilst you are there:
Picturesque Wanaka is a little (but they think it’s big) New Zealand town that is definitely worth a day or two exploring. We liked it so much we ended up staying an extra night. There’s quite a few walks you can do in this area but our favourite, and noticeably the easiest, was the walk around part of Lake Wanaka, right near the town center. Here you get incredible views of this little town, it’s impressive mountainous backdrop and the surrounding nature.
Start the walk from anywhere round the lake in Roy’s Bay, there’s ample parking and even some picnic/bbq areas dotted around. The easiest place to start is near Ardmore Street located close to the town centre. You can’t get lost, if you can’t see the lake you’ve gone the wrong way. Take your time, skim stones, go as far round the lake as you like but make sure you pay a visit to Lone Tree of Lake Wanaka.
The whole way round the lake is a very flat, mostly stoney shoreline walk. If you go in Autumn (March/April) you’re in for a real treat – such great colours!
Time: As long as you like!
Start: Car Park, adjacent to Ardmour Rd.
3. Hooker Valley Walk, Mount Cook
This is the longest walk in this blog post. The Mount Cook Hooker Valley Walk takes you on a 3 hour loop trail, through the valley situated below the impressive, towering Mount Cook and the other mountains that make up the Southern Alps. The good news is the walk is pretty flat! Near the start you’ll pass by the pyramid shaped Alpine Memorial which commemorates climbers who have lost their lives in the national park, with their name and how they died. I recommend checking this out on the way back.
What also makes this an impressive walk is the two bridges you cross and various look out points that show off the mountainous landscape. You’re mere meters from the snow! The walk turns around at the Hooker Glacier Lake, which is just amazing. You’ll get to see icebergs and small blocks of ice in this Lake. It’s a stunning place to sit, relax and have lunch halfway through the trek. Noticeably the size of these icebergs has dramatically decreased over the last ten years due to warmer climates. So best be quick sticks and see it while you can!
One of the other great things about this walk is that if you have a tent or a campervan you can camp here too. The walk actually starts at The White Horse Hill Campground . This was probably the most beautiful place I have ever slept! And that’s saying something considering I was top and tailing in a three person (but really 2 person) tent on top of a car, late in New Zealand’s Autumn!
Oh, the name of this place has just clicked! Hooker, ha.
Time: 3 Hours to complete the whole loop/ 30 minutes to the first bridge and look out point
Start: White Horse Campsite
4. Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
How many people can say they have seen a glacier? In fact I wasn’t entirely sure what a glacier was until we did these two walks and saw them. Unfortunately both glaciers aren’t as impressive as they were. Again, because of a warmer climate these glaciers (basically huge walls/rivers of ice) have shrunken back massively. The walks for both these glaciers are definitely worth doing, but it definitely won’t be the most beautiful or remarkable landscape you will see in New Zealand. But that’s mainly down to the fact you are really spoilt in New Zealand. Both walks are free up to the glacier, both have a small, gradual incline, and for both you’ll be walking on a gravelly, stoney walkway a lot of the way. Be warned, if it’s grey, rainy skies, the walk and it’s landscape can be a bit dreary until you get to the glacier. If a better view is what you are after, then the ice climbs with a tour company would be an amazing thing to do. Unfortunately these are quite costly!
Time: –1.5 hours return to the terminal face of Franz Josef.
– 1 hour return to the terminal face of Fox Glacier.
Start: Car Parks at both Glacier sights.
5. Lake Matheson, Fox Glacier
Lake Matheson is nestled in an ancient forest and the walk takes you to some stunning view points. If you’re really lucky you will be able to see the famous mirror views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman in Lake Matheson.
The whole lake circuit takes 1.5 hours. Dawn and dusk are generally the best viewing times as the lake is generally calm. So we packed a thermos full of tea and arrived at Lake Matheson at 6.30am ready to see this famous majestic sunrise and reflection. Unfortunately all we saw were clouds and rain! New Zealand’s weather can be so cruel! Luckily we popped in and completed 30 minutes of the circuit round to the reflection look out point at Jetty View Point the day before and got some good snaps. We weren’t lucky enough to see Mount Cook as it was too cloudy, but as you can see, the reflection view is still pretty wonderful:
Time: 1.5 Hours to complete the whole Lake circuit.
A starting point for a lot of South East Asian travellers is Bangkok, a city like no other! It can be easy to get stuck in the tourist trap of hitting the big sights like the Grand Palace or Khao San Road. But what else is there to do? And more importantly what is there to do without spending a lot of money? I’ve been to Bangkok twice in the last year on a budget and these are things I have most enjoyed. Here are my top 8 cheap, alternative things to do in Bangkok!
1. EAT – at Sukhumvit Soi 38!
Thai food, was second only to Malay Food, in the 5 different countries I visited in South East Asia. The best place to go for an introduction into tasty, local street food in Bangkok in the evening is Sukhumvit Soi 38! Soi in Thai means ‘side street ‘and Sukhumvit Soi 38 is a side street that is closed off every evening from 5pm to 2am to become a great night time food market! Stalls line up each side of the street, not too many that you’re overwhelmed with choice but not too few that there is no choice! It’s a really great introduction to Thai cuisine and you are able to try some well know dishes such as Thai som tams (green papaya salads), Pad Thai, Chicken Rice, Mango sticky rice, BBQ meat and fish on sticks and satay. It’s also right next to Thuong Lo station so easy to get to. Details: Open 5pm – 2am, every day. Less stalls on Monday due to street cleaning. Closest station: Thuong Lo Price per dish: 40baht – 60 baht.
2. Pray at the temple of Wat Suthat
Visit the quiet, peaceful temple of Wat Suthat – complete with giant swing! We actually stumbled upon Wat Suthat because we got lost and thought it was the Grand Palace! Upon entry we were presently surprised to find out it was only 20baht to get in! Once in it didn’t take us long to realise this wasn’t the Grand Palace… Unlike the Grand Palace, Wat Suthat was calm, and a much needed reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Also unlike the Grand Palace it wasn’t crammed full of tourists as most of the people we saw here were monks. We discovered it is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok, complete with a main chapel, courtyard and 156 Buddha images along the outer walls and four entry gates individually hand-carved with intricate details. It is a beautiful place to wander round and a great introduction to Thailand’s temples. So if you’re looking for an escape from the chaos and crowds of Bangkok, to see an authentic temple with stunning architecture on the cheap then head to Wat Suthat for the afternoon. I saw A LOT of temples in S.E Asia and this one of my favorites. Location: 146 Thanon Bamrung Muang Times: 8.30am-9pm daily Price: 20 baht
3. A Free visit to Siam Museum
The Siam museum is a really cute, interactive museum full of interesting material on Siam’s Traditions! Siam is what Thailand used to be and you get to learn about its history here along with religion, culture, wealth and lifestyle– it’s a great introduction! As with lots of places in South East Asia, they’ve made some good photo opportunities! Best of all it’s free entry after 4pm! It’s located near the Grand Palace and giant reclining Buddha so a good place to relax out of the crowds, and another highlight – air conditioning! Location: Sanam Chai Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand Hours: 10.00 – 18.00 (Tuesday to Sunday) Free after 4pm.
4. Take a day trip to Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya is the old capital of Siam (Thailand) and definitely worth a visit to see the remains of the temples after the Burmese came, destroyed it and chopped all the statues’ heads off. They really had a thing for heads. The train journey to Ayutthaya takes just under 2 hours and costs 15baht for a third class ticket. Once in Ayutthaya you can hire bicycles and spend your day cycling round the historical ruins and temples. It’s a great, easy day trip and something different to Bangkok. We actually made Ayutthaya a stop off location on our way to Chaing Mai, you can read more about that journey and what we did here: AYUTTHAYA – THE DAY WE CYCLED AROUND THE RUINS OF SIAM (THAILAND)Price: 15 Baht train ticket Depart from: Hua Lamphong Station, every hour.
5. Chill out in Lumpini Park
Lumpini Park is a great, free place to relax and hang out. There are a few lakes here, lots of trees for some shade and a walking track. It’s also a place where many Thai people go to practise their ball room dancing or do group exercise such as Thai Chi. If you’re here at 8:00am or 18:00pm you will also hear the The Thai National Anthem played into the park through speakers. During the anthem every single person stops what they are doing, joggers stop jogging, people sitting down will stand up and no one moves! Being in the park and not knowing this was a thing was very weird; it was like Thailand had broken! Lumpini park is not far from the Grand Palace and the reclining Buddha so a good place to cool down in after a day sightseeing. It’s also a good place to meet fellow backpackers. Location: Rama 4 Road,Wangmai,Pathumwan, Bangkok, Thailand Stay for: National Anthem being played at 8:00am and 18:00pm
6. Hop in a River Taxi
It was only when we got out onto the water that we were able to take a step back and get a proper view of Bangkok and the cityscape. If you head down to Sathorn Pier there will be many river taxis to take you around, from the pricier tourist boats with guides to the local taxis that cost 3 baht for you to cross. If you’re lucky with your river taxi, you may like us have a boat driver who watches a TV hung above his steering wheel as he drives! A fine example of multitasking. There is also a way you can get yourself around for free and that is by using the hotel shuttle boats. All of the top five-star hotels along the riverside have dedicated, free shuttle boats that ferry guests to and from their hotel and Sathorn Central Pier. Even if you are not staying at any of these particular hotels the shuttle service is still available free of charge. So you can enjoy a free boat ride and get a great view of the city! More Information: http://www.bangkok.com/information-travel-around/boats-ferries.htmLocation: Sathorn Pier, in front of Saphan Taksin BTS Skytrain Station Price: Free
7. Go to Cinema
Yes, that’s right the cinema! Not only is it insanely cheap compared to western prices it’s also somewhat of a cultural experience. Yes I’m sticking to that statement, and here’s why – before every screening in Thailand a video of the King plays and then the National Anthem where by all the patrons stand up and some sing along. A lot of the films screened are in English with Thai subtitles, you can find out which ones at the cinema or on their website. We went to the cinema in the MBK centre, and for £1.50 each we got to sit in VIP seats in front of a huge cinema screen and we didn’t get ripped off with over priced popcorn. Though as a warning some of the popcorn flavours are very weird! Chicken and cheese anyone? Cinemas in Bangkok: Major Cineplex at EGV, Paragon Cineplex at Siam Paragon and Thailand’s only IMAX theatre. The second biggest operator is SF Cinema City, with branches at leading shopping malls like MBK Centre and the Emporium
8. Cook with Poo
No, not actual Poo! The cooking course is run by Khun Saiyuud Diwong, affectionately known as Poo (short for “Chompoo” or rose apple). Poo is a long-time resident of Klong Toey, the largest slum in Bangkok. Poo grew up poor in the slums and has become a local icon by using what she learned about cooking as a child into a thriving business that supports the local community. Now I will fess up, I never got to cook with Poo because Poo is very popular, and she gets booked up way in advance. I love what she is trying to do, so if you can support her, learn to cook some tasty food and get fed, then I urge you to do so. Go on, cook with Poo. More info:http://www.cookingwithpoo.com/ If anyone has any suggestions on cheap, alternate things to do in Bangkok let me know. With any activity or place you visit in Bangkok or Thailand I urge you do some research. One of the things that shocked me in Thailand was how unethical things like Elephant Parks or Ping Pong shows are, so do some research beforehand, yeah?
Wandering through sulphuric pools, feeling like I’m in Jurassic Park (minus the dinosaurs and Jeff Goldblum), seeing cool Maori stuff…
Rotten egg smelling Rotorua is all about the geothermal activity and there’s a lot of it in this city. You can literally see sulphuric gas rise out of cracks in the pavement as you’re walking around! And no one seems phased by this, apart from us tourists!
If you’re looking to get up close to some geysers and learn about the natural history and geology of the area then there’s the Te Puia geothermal park which you can pay to go to. However, being budget backpackers we were all about doing things on the cheap! Luckily you can still see plenty of geothermal activity and get up close to that eggy smell for free!
KUIRAU PARK, is just a few minutes walk from the Rotorua center and has plenty of sulphur to make you gag. The park has a number of different mud pools of all different sizes ranging from small puddles to a lake which you can cross via footbridge.
At some points a gust of wind would shove the eggy smell right in your face and you’d need a moment to get your breath back. (Yes, it really is THAT bad). However wandering through Kuirua Park was pretty cool and you got to see how the sulphur affected the vegetation surrounding it. [It dead]
Another cool thing about Rotorua is that it has a significant Maori population, so there’s a lot of traditional influence in its buildings. This is very prominent at the old Maori Village of OHINEMUTU which features a Tama-Te-Kapua marae (a Maori meeting house) opposite St Faith’s Anglican Church (which has an interesting European history). Our Kiwi Experience Bus driver told us that the Maoris used to cook in the sulphur pools!
Again this is just a short walk from the town center. This old village is also right next to the bluey/green tinged ‘Lake Rotorua,’ which is a nice place to sit down at and admire the view!
Despite being called a city, Rotorua is more town-like and easy to walk around and that’s what we spent most of our time doing. In the evening a whole lot of our K.E bus went to the Maori village cultural show http://www.tamakimaorivillage.co.nz/, which seems a top tourist attraction in Rotorua and does look intriguing. However being low on funds we made do with spending the evening soaking in the atmosphere (and sulphur) near the lake!
Highlights: Seeing lots of geothermic activity for free. Lowlights: Gagging on sulphuric rotting egg smell. Accommodation: Base Hostel – 3/5. Average. $30 for a dorm.
[Feature Image Courtesy of Gone Walkabout. https://gonewalkaboutdotnet.files.wordpress.com]
Tubing through a cave, way under the ground, staring at Maggots listening to Disney’s ‘A Whole New World’….
Out of all the extreme sports you can do in New Zealand – skydiving, bungee jumping, paragliding, I knew there was one I was not leaving New Zealand without doing – Black Water Rafting.
Black Water Rafting is basically rafting in the dark through a system of caves, and the place you go for that is Waitomo, in New Zealand’s North island. The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company in Waitomo offers 3 tours 1) Black Labyrinth- the original 3 hour rafting tour 2) Black Odyssey – 5 hours of seriously high climbing where you stay dry 3) Black Abyss – a mix of climbing, abseiling and rafting for 5 hours.
We decided it was all or nothing so signed up for the Black Abyss tour as it included all activities, feeling a little nervous and concerned that if we didn’t like it then 5 hours was a LONG time to be down there. Luckily it turned out to be one of the best things I did in New Zealand, but Wait-O-Mo, more on that later…
The day started with the Kiwi Experience Bus picking us up early from the spectacular Hot Water Beach, we made our way southward to Waitomo via a stop at the Karranghake Gorge, on the Coromondel Peninsular where we did a short walk over the beautiful Ohinemuri River and through an impressively long 1100m old railway tunnel. Which was definitely worth seeing.
One of the negatives of the Kiwi Experience Bus is having to do walks like this in such a huge group, so we stayed back a little so we could appreciate the scale, silence and darkness of the tunnel. It was pretty creepy and reminded us of the ‘Mines of Moria’. Minus the Orcs.
Next stop was Waitomo. Despite my pun earlier Waitomo is actually pronounce Way-et, toe, moe. Rather than ‘Waitomo mate’ and the name derives from the Māori words wai (water) and tomo (hole). Its a small town and the reason people come here is to see the Glow worms and/or take part in the Black Water Rafting.
Now we knew we signed up for 5 hours of cave time, but we weren’t entirely sure what we’d be doing in those 5 hours, which was great because it didn’t give us any time to get nervous! It seemed our K.E bus driver Mar had failed to mention that the tour starts off with a 35metre abseil down a small hole to get into the caves!
After a quick practice of abseiling above the ground we were ready to go under! The abseil down was definitely a lot longer than I anticipated and once underground it was much, much darker. The cave walls were very wet so rather than abseiling I was mainly lowering myself down slowly getting deeper and darker with each pull on the cable. It seemed to take ages to get the bottom, but once I did I just wanted to do it all over again!
Next our challenge was to ride a zip line through the cave – which is just as fun as it sounds! One by one we clipped onto the zip line and each took that leap of faith jump off a ledge and flew deeper into the black cave system, they don’t call it the Black Abyss for nothing!
Now deeper inside the cave system we prepared ourselves for the black water rafting in the icy cold water by warming ourselves up with hot chocolates and snacks. The rafting part was the bit I was most looking forward to, but we only really did this for about 30 minutes through a gentle current, so I would have preferred some more rapids and perhaps a waterfall drop for good measure!
However the rafting was still pretty wonderful, and as we made our way down the water tunnel to get a better view of the glow worms, our guide Esme gave us some information about the glow worms we had come all this way to see.
Glow worms aren’t worms at all, they are in fact maggots of mosquito like flies. Each maggot releases a fiber line that dangles below, then with their light they attract insects which get stuck in the lines. So when they wake they have breakfast there ready to go. The cave was filled with these glowing maggot bums and often we’d have to watch our heads to make sure we weren’t going into the lines. Esme put the whole experience into perspective for us: “You’ve paid to follow two complete strangers down deep into a dark, wet cave, then plunged into cold water to see maggots, maggots that hatch and spend their few days alive mating so much they die from exhaustion, or if female, lay eggs then die from exhaustion, in order to produce more maggots.”
Sounds pretty special, right?
Even more so when we all linked legs with arms and formed a ‘human eel’ then floated back down the tunnel staring up at these beautiful maggot bums as Esme sang ‘A Whole New World’. It really was different world down there.
After rafting it was onto some more caving as we made our way through all sorts of tunnels of different shapes and sizes and down a waterfall slide until we reached my most challenging part – Free Climbing (no ropes) a 6 meter and 4 meter high waterfall. Naturally I felt a pang of nervousness when our guide Scuba said ‘no safety ropes’, but he ensured us that he would help point out where our feet and hands should go, and that if we are worried we should pay attention to what everyone else does. ‘Great’ I thought ‘I’ll just watch Graeme and Sarah they are both good climbers.’
Then I got picked to go first.
I was definitely out of my comfort zone with the free climbing but wanted to tackle the challenge so pushed down that worried voice inside my head that kept pointing out the sharp rocks below me and the gushing water falling on top of me. Scuba did a great job of guiding me and supporting me in tricky bits, at one point I am pretty sure I had most my weight on his head/back.
I felt much more comfortable in the water so would have really liked more rafting time, perhaps next time ( I really hope that there’s a next time) I’ll give the 3 hours rafting ago on the Black Labyrinth Tour, but I am pleased I did the Black Abyss as not only was it something I have never done before but it also gave me that sense of accomplishment doing something I know I am not comfortable with. Go me.
Highlights: Black Water Rafting tour. So, so good.
Lowlights: putting on a freezing cold, wet, wetsuit! Digusting.
Accomodation: Kiwi Packer – overpriced dorm rooms ($32), was freezing cold as the heaters didn’t work despite alerting staff and the window didn’t shut. I wouldn’t recommend.
Prices: Black Abyss $195 (including Kiwi Experience Discount)
Another dance challenge for my for my 26 things to do before I turn 26 list! This time I attended No Lights No Lycra – an evening where you dance in complete darkness and really let loose! It’s a great chance to live out a cliche and ‘dance like no one’s watching,’ because no one can watch!
No Lights No Lycra is a dance community where there is ‘no light, no lycra, no teacher, no steps to learn, no technique, just free movement.’ It’s a community that has gone global with ‘free movement dance’ sessions throughout Aus, NZ, Europe and Canada! But here I am in Melbourne at the birthplace of No Lights No Lycra, where it was all started by two dancers Alice Glenn and Heidi Barrett in 2009.
There’s a few sessions dotted in and around Melbourne, but I attended the No Lights No Lycra session in an old church hall in:
East Brunswick – 49 Nicholson St Brunswick East, under the church, enter via Barkly st. The room was kitted out with blackout curtains and a DJ booth on the stage which churned out songs from pretty much every genre from ‘Footloose’ to ‘Killing in the name of.’ And that was it really, you just showed up and danced, no talking, no bar so definitely no drinking, just dancing.
It took a while to get into, but after a while you really start to lose your inhibitions and focus on the songs and dancing. In some ways I found the whole session a form of meditation! You really become in the zone and forget what’s going on around you, which was really freeing.
NLNL has been on my to do list for a while, what I really love about my challenge is that it gives you that final push to actually do those things you’ve been meaning to do!
So dancing in the dark with strangers – tick!
26 really has been my dancing year so far, maybe my life will turn out like this after all…
Boiling our feet at Hot Water Beach and seeing New Zealand’s version of Halong Bay at Cathedral Cove…
Another early start and back on the next part of our Kiwi Experience bus tour. The tour was so busy that K.E had to put on another bus although it was much smaller! In our early morning state we decided it would be best to get on the smaller bus, quickly realising that a smaller bus meant a small amount of space. However the empty seats became seats for bags and we settled in for our 2.5 hours drive to Hot Water Beach with our K.E. Driver Mar.
Hot water beach is located at the top along New Zealand’s Pacific coast just south of Mercury Bay. Now the really cool thing about Hot Water Beach is all the hot springs under the ground, a legacy of its volcanic past. Within two hours either side of low tide, you dig into the sand allowing hot water to escape to the surface and form your own hot water pool with the water getting as hot as 64 °C!
The K.E bus are pretty good at stopping at supermarkets and cafes en route so you can pick up food for your trip. It was on this K.E bus that we discovered Warehouse – a mega store that sells everything from clothes to camping gear to the world’s biggest Marshmallows! Little did we know how much we’d rely on Warehouse during our time in New Zealand.
After quickly checking into our accommodation at Water Beach Holiday Park ($30 NZD, dorm) we were back on the bus to Cathedral Cove (20 minute drive). Normally the walk down to the cove would have taken around 40 minutes but a surge in torrential rain whilst on the walk held us up . At one point mud and water gushed down the steps towards us as we tried clambering up. We only had one rain jacket between the three of us… luckily it was mine and my top half stayed relatively dry. I am nice though, and let Sarah and Graeme share my hat.
The views were fantastic especially once the rain stopped. On one side we had hilly farm land filled with cows and plush green grass ( the shire) on the other a glimmering blue sea dotted with little islands (new Zealand’s version of Halong bay). The Cove offered a sandy beach and a chance to have a dip!
Later that evening we made our way down to hot water beach eager to build our own hot tub or at least jump in someone else’s! However I think the weather and the waves were against us and perhaps the tide wasn’t low enough because no sooner had someone found some hot water and started digging a huge wave would pour in and cool it down. We joined in the Kiwi Experience team effort to create one large pool and a wall to keep the waves out, but it was tough work and we only managed to get it shin deep.
Instead we settled for standing a few feet into the sea, here you could swivel your feet into the sand until you struck hot water! It was amazing how hot the water was in some parts, sometimes it was boiling! So not quite the hot tubs we had imagined but still pretty awesome especially as the waves cascaded around our legs, the hot water warmed our toes and the night sky (no light pollution up here) shone down on us. Yep, pretty magical.
Having our feet bubbling in sea water heated by volcanic activity.
Opting for the cramped kiwi bus, Graeme and I missing out in buying the largest Marshmallows I have even seen! (Sarah wouldn’t let us buy them)
Bays, beaches, stunning views and almost seeing a kiwi bird…
Our first day on the Kiwi Experience hop on and hop off bus takes us to Paihia, a town in the Bay Islands right at the tip of the North Island of New Zealand. This area also known as the ‘Winterless North’ in New Zealand dues to their mild winters.
We woke up early and waited for our bus outside Base Hostel in Auckland and slowly in dribs and drabs backpackers of all ages (though the majority were noticeably younger than us) came to join on the pavement. I’ll admit we were anxious that this bus was going to be a party bus full of much young(er) backpackers… how were they going to keep up with us? ;). But as more people arrived there seemed to be quite a range of ages and types of backpackers.
After four hours on the bus, broken up only by a Pitt stop for brekkie, we rolled into Paihia, true to its nickname we were greeted by gorgeous sunshine and shimmering blue water broken up by islands of all different sizes.
There’s lots to do in Paihia and if you have the money you can spend it on island cruises, dolphin cruises, kayaking, para-sailing, sky diving (the cheapest you can do in NZ). The good thing is you can book all this on your Kiwi Experience Bus at a cheaper rate. However none of us were fussed about seeing dolphins (whales are cooler) so instead we visited the Tourist Information Center and found out about some walks and also about visiting New Zealand’s former capital Russell.
We took the Ferry from Paihia to Russell for $12NZD return. Russell used to be known as ‘Kororareka’ named by the Maori, which means ‘how sweet is the penguin?’ However that soon changed when The Brits came, took over the place and it became known as the ‘hell hole of the pacific’ due to the lack of law and high levels of prostitution. You’re welcome New Zealand.
Thankfully Russell is no longer known a hell hole and now is actually really pretty, it still has a lot of the old wooden buildings from the 1840s, some nice bars by the water and a really nice beach for swimming – Long Beach. I really wanted to visit Russell whist in NZ as I knew this was a place my Nan and Granddad visited and really enjoyed. To be fair I think they mainly enjoyed Russell because their last name is also Russell – good enough reason.
Once in Russell we did the short uphill walk to the lookout in Flagstaff Historic reserve.
Here you get a great view of the Bay Islands
We extended the walk further by following the footpath down from there to Waihihi Bay, which is a rocky beach but again offered some stunning views. It’s a steep walk down through a Kiwi bird protected area. Despite keeping an eye out we didn’t manage to see any Kiwi birds. Our kiwi experience bus driver Jarrord told us that he’s only met one person who has seen a kiwi bird in the wild. (Dreams shattered.)
We walked back into town and then over to long beach, we were short on time as we needed to catch the last ferry back but a dip in the sea here would’ve be nice. In fact if we had more time in Paihia Id definitely take the time to relax here more and enjoy the sunshine. We were very much aware that this is likely the warmest we will be in New Zealand so could have done with a few more hours on the beach!
Stunning views and having rocky beach all to ourselves in Russell!
The excitement of spotting a kiwi bird quickly turning into disappointment as we realised it wasn’t a kiwi bird I saw, but more likely some sort of moor hen.
Places of Note:
El Cafe – really good. We went here twice, the coffee (even by Melbourne standards) is pretty great and we liked the burritos so much we went back for breakfast the next day. You know the food is good when you look so sexy eating it….
Vinnes Fish n Chips – Cheap, ok food,
Places to Stay:
Lots of hostels to chose from!
Base: Much nicer than the Base in Auckland, bunks are located in cabins, pretty clean (4/5) $25 NZD per night.
I’m not much of a morning person! In fact I rather if people didn’t talk to me in the mornings until I’ve had a coffee or a tea. But the idea of raving at 7:00am, on a weekday before starting work sounded oddly appealing and a good one for my 26 things to do before I turn 26 list!
The rave put on by Morning Gloryville, saw 1000 Pound Bend in Melbourne’s cbd, transformed into a psychedelic fairyland of coloured lights and disco balls at 6:30am – 9:30am. People were going all out for this rave, many in lycra and fluorescent leg warmers. There was glitter. Glitter everywhere!
Despite the extravagant dance moves there was not a drop of alcohol on site. The only thing fuelling us was coffee, super smoothies and being able to appreciate being up and alive at some ridiculous time in the morning!
Founded in London, in 2013 Morning Gloryville describes itself as ‘an immersive morning dance experience for those who dare to start their day in style!’. Being up so early meant I had a nap at 5pm but I really enjoyed it and made a nice change from pressing the ‘snooze’ button about 20 times.
Last time I was in Australia I tried surfing a few times and I sucked. Back home in Kent I tried windsurfing and I sucked. So on this trip I thought I’d give Kite Surfing a go and guess what? I didn’t suck!
Kite surfing is a popular water sport at Melbourne’s city beaches in St Kilda. The bad thing about Melbourne’s beaches compared to Sydney is the waves… in that there aren’t really any, so you can’t go normal surfing. The good news however is there’s not many sharks either!
Despite sucking at surfing and the last kite I flew being shaped as Mr Blobby (I was 6), I decided it would be a good idea to kite surf, so I booked a 2 hour lesson with Kite Republic, Kiteboarding school in West Beach, St Kilda after I saw them advertising a Groupon offer. (Always worth checking Groupon).
Joining me for my surf lesson was Dan who I actually met previously when I didn’t speed mate. I was very grateful to have Dan with me, also a complete newbie to Kite surfing! We met Anouk our wonderful teacher from the Netherlands, and struggled into our wetsuits, buoyancy aids, helmets and belt through legs thingys – we really weren’t sure what to expect!
For the first half and hour it was all about getting the kite flying technique right and we did this practicing on a small training kite. Dan and I did pretty well learning to fly the kite, making quick sharp turns and getting it to go where we wanted it. But then we moved onto the BIG kite surfing kite! A kite surfing kite can be anything from 10 to 15 meters squared and you can really feel its power! Luckily we also learnt the 3 things to do in an emergency if your kite is pulling you say: away into the ocean, into the road with oncoming traffic or into the propellers of a boat!
Once we mastered (kind of) flying the huge, massive kite, Anouk took us into the water. Although we didn’t use the kiteboard (Anouk recommended 5 hours of kite surfing lessons before you tried that) we did get a sense of using the kite in the water; taking its mammoth power to pull (all three of us at some point) rapidly through the water. Which is as fun as it sounds!
All in all I really enjoyed Kite surfing and I didn’t suck at it! Dan and I are keen to get some more lessons to see if we’d be any good on the board as well, or if it’s just flying kite we’re good at! We’ll have to see…
Thanks to the people at Kite Republic for an awesome evening kite surfing!
Making my way north of the river hone I also had my first ever (and possibly last) hot chocolate from 7eleven that counts as no.18, right?!